The Iteron Mark IV Quafe Ultra Edition is a unique ship awarded to capsuleer attendees of the YC114 Impetus Holoreel Convention. Commissioned by the Quafe Company to counter distribution interruptions in the face of evolving cluster-wide political conflict, this model is more agile, has a faster warp engine and has an upgraded cargo hold that can carry vast amounts of sweet, sweet Quafe. The ship also boasts a simplified control system, one that new pilots can master quickly and efficiently, allowing for an easier progression toward their earning optimal transport labor wages.
Not long after YC113's Impetus Holoreel Convention, the ''Federation Advertising Industry Monitor'' (''M-FAI'') began trending a rumor line about an evolving conflict between Impetus and Quafe’s public relations divisions. Anonymous insider sources informed M-FAI that while both corporations were both pleased by early feedback from the convention's capsuleer attendees, Impetus had already begun to regret a clause in their promotional agreement.
Quafe provided YC113 capsuleer attendees a promotional t-shirt with the implied guarantee that if the garment was damaged due to a pilot's being podded while wearing it, it would be replaced free of charge. Impetus had agreed to handle all of the replacement costs.
However, Impetus did not own rights to Quafe's corporate logo or its registered teal, white and silver color series. It could not legally prevent Quafe or its licensees from manufacturing and selling shirts similar to those that'd been distributed at the convention, and it was concerned that capsuleers who acquired any of those similar garments might "accidentally" file a loss claim and then sue (or worse) if Impetus didn't honor it. Sources cited one Impetus exec's fear that "some (expletive) null-sec alliance will buy you [Quafe] out of (expletive) t-shirts and then pod themselves until we're bankrupt".
Quafe's representatives called the Impetus exec "irrational," but pledged to strengthen the legal language attached to non-convention related clothing sales. Though mollified by Quafe's offer, Impetus insisted on a change to the YC114 promotional agreement. It was still willing to assume merchandise replacement costs, but only if it was provided a mechanism for recovering part of that cost.
Impetus initially proposed co-branding all promotional material offered at the YC114 convention. Quafe agreed until its negotiation team members learned that Impetus did not intend to waive its logo licensing fee for anyone but them. Accepting the compromise would have likely forced Quafe to bring all of the merchandise manufacturing in house instead of entrusting it to one of their usual toll manufacturers: something the company had no interest in doing.
Quafe countered with a split time and materials offer. While it would have the only logo on the YC114 promotional item, and use its subcontractors to produce it, it would pay Impetus to provide the component materials. Quafe would retain any excess material inventory to cover capsuleer loss claims (with Impetus assuming the other replacement costs, as per the YC113 agreement), and when that inventory was consumed, it would pay Impetus for more fabric stock.
After multiple rounds of negotiations, an "indeterminate number" of "personnel reassignments," and allegedly Quafe's "no longer giving a (expletive) about the (multiple expletives) t-shirt", Impetus and Quafe settled on a modified version of Quafe's split time and materials proposal. Impetus would not only provide all material to Quafe's manufacturing subcontractors, it would also have full control over that material's design.
Perhaps buoyed by their successful negotiations, Impetus representatives did not object to a surprise late-game addition to Quafe's YC114 capsuleer attendee swag bag: a ship that (as Quafe's team lead claimed) "reflected the true spirit of the convention". This ship would not be released market wide, could not be downward adapted for use by conventional pilots, and most importantly, would be provided without a replacement guarantee.
M-FAI sources reported that despite Impetus' agreement, their negotiation team did not expect Quafe to be able to deliver the promised ship. After all, Quafe did not design or manufacture ships, and to public knowledge, was not in a partnership with anyone who did.
The Quafe team lead assured them that there was "something in the works".
Shortly after rumors of the new ship surfaced on M-FAI, an Atlanins-local affiliate of The Scope reported that three members of the Quafe negotiations team (including its lead) died in a crawler accident while taking a sightseeing tour of the system's third planet. While local public opinion briefly linked disgruntled elements of Quafe’s legal division with the tragedy, no evidence materialized to support the allegation.
After the foundation of the Caldari Providence Directorate in YC110, Quafe found itself no longer as welcome in a State that had once considered it a peer of its native megacorps While Quafe successfully protected its Gallente employees from the immediate threat of quarantine or deportation, the prospect of the company's being stripped of its megacorp status drove many workers to transfer out of its State-based facilities, or leave it entirely.
Quafe soon began facing critical personnel shortages in the State, a problem only partially mitigated by its offering bonuses (and in most cases, promotions) to Caldari who wished to repatriate. Relatively few took advantage of the offer. Considerably fewer Caldari already within the State sought to take advantage of Quafe's historically unprecedented signing bonuses.
Supply chain snafus also compounded Quafe's woes, since the company's relative legal protections did not extend to its cadre of local subcontractors. While some were able to cut ties with Quafe and thrive in the new political climate, most suffered, and several collapsed.
Over its decades of relatively free rein within all four empires and beyond, Quafe has created a distribution network rivaled by few others in the New Eden cluster. This network enabled it to continue to meet its State delivery goals on time despite struggling with a personnel crisis and a crumbling local supply chain.
It was a source of corporate pride that not a single Quafe autovendor in the State went unstocked during the uncertain months after the Directorate's rise and the tragedy at Malkalen. Live feeds from State autovendors, normally only the concern of regional outposts, were collated into a single holopanel view and broadcast on the walls of every Quafe facility in the cluster. Against the advice of her security team (whose blatant concern was often used to comedic effect), Pallysseult Genereau, Quafe's Saranen-based CFO, began thrice-daily live broadcasts of her snagging an ice-cold Quafe from random vending machines throughout the State's Lonetrek region.
The last set of those broadcasts aired on 110.06.09. On 110.06.10, CONCORD authorized the CONCORD Emergency Militia War Powers Act.
After the execution of the Act, capsuleers began officially sanctioned permanent war along some of Quafe's most critical routes, throwing its distribution network into disarray. Within a few days, the company missed its first State restock deadline.
Soon, Quafe's personnel shortages and supply chain crisis spread to other empires, including the Federation. In some systems, its stable of capsuleer subcontractors (who'd become more essential to keep the Quafe flowing) declined or disappeared, lured away by potential war zone profits. Qualified ship crew, maintenance personnel and technicians began leaving the company in droves, as talented people followed the capsuleers into war due to nationalistic interests and the promise of higher pay.
With no end to the cluster-wide war in sight, a desperate Quafe took on a project no less than automating its entire transport fleet.
The bulk of Quafe's conventional fleet are Roden Shipyards-Duvolle Laboratories Iteron-class industrial vessels. Working with consultants from both corporations and other "interested parties," Quafe developed a version of the Iteron Mark IV with an improved navigation system, an expanded cargo bay, and more robust automation. While the new automation systems did not wholly eliminate the ship's need for crew, it slashed the required number by nearly two-thirds of a standard complement. This reduction provided Quafe the "meat leverage" it needed to restore its battered business.
The first of these prototype Iteron Mark IVs may have launched as early as mid-YC111, most likely on a high-risk route through the shifting Federal Defense Union-State Protectorate occupational border.
When the ''Federation Advertising Industry Monitor'' (''M-FAI'') brought the project to direct public attention in YC113, there were more of these prototypes in Quafe's fleet than there were standard Mark IVs, and reputed plans in place to cycle out the rest of the fleet in favor of the new ships within the next four-five years.
M-FAI has speculated that Quafe and its collaborators' continuing to call their new Mark IV a research project despite its demonstrated success demonstrates concern that all or portions of the ship's innovative design could fall under the cross-empire technology sharing protocols of CONCORD's Directive Alpha Gamma 12. The measures that Quafe took to insure that its Iteron Mark IV Quafe Ultra Edition is classified as a 'corporate research prototype' may reinforce that speculation.
The Quafe Ultra Edition is, from all available information, a Project Gatecrash Iteron Mark IV hacked to accommodate a capsuleer pilot. Very few other changes were made: the ship's improved navigation system and expanded cargo bay are believed to be identical to those in the conventional prototype, as is the ship's innovative automation suite.
To address Quafe's desire to have a transport that a conventional pilot could master in a short amount of time, Duvolle devised a "quartet modularization" of ship functions, grouping all but one essential system into four function clusters, each controlled by a simple on-off switch. In the Quafe Ultra Edition, these switches have been replaced with four neurohaptic interfaces. With the exception of capsule internals, all control of the fifth essential system (life support) remains in the hands of the crew.
Despite its extra-corporate distribution, the Quafe Ultra Edition is also classified as a research prototype. This skirting of CONCORD's Directive Alpha Gamma 12 is made possible by Quafe's creative interpretation of what defines a corporate fleet: "a set of ships with identical technical specifications and unique, unifying branding". In this case, that brand is a coating of Impetus' ''Starlet ScarletTM'' colorway, a color scheme exclusive to the YC114 Impetus Holoreel Convention.
(Although Quafe assumed a liberal interpretation of corporate fleet, it did not do so without issuing strict disclaimers. A pilot's acceptance of the ship absolved Quafe, Impetus and any of their collaborative partners from any legal actions that could result from the pilot's doing anything "locally illegal, inexcusably immoral or generally stupid".)
Prior to the YC114 convention, Quafe and Impetus invited a selection of distinguished engineering researchers to a private review of the new ship. The reception was rumored to be generally positive, though marred by a remark made by Dr. Faison Mouvirrill of the Center for Advanced Studies. Dr. Mouvirril, impressed by the Quafe Ultra Edition's ease-of-use, allegedly commented that the ship was "so simple that even a Caldari could fly it". It has been said that Dr. Mouvirril later tried to downplay the comment as a joke and while Quafe has made no official comment, rumors are that senior executives have removed him from their list of potential invitees to future events.
####''Starlet Scarlet TM''
Wanting a definitive break from Quafe's trademarked teal-white-and-silver, Impetus commissioned a red-through-black colorway from the Coriault Couture Collective. Dubbed ''Starlet Scarlet TM,'' this color scheme saturates every millimeter of the fabric in the YC114 Impetus Holoreel Convention souvenir t-shirt and permeates the hull of the Mark IV Quafe Ultra Edition Iteron.
An internal Coriault Couture Collective memo, leaked to Dodixie's ''Rag Trade Hourly'' feed referenced concerns presented by several Collective members that the color would need a cost-prohibitive molecular suspension technique in order to preserve its hue integrity during the fabric printing process.
Impetus may have received the Collective's advice a little too late. After a series of failed test batches at an Everyshore-based fabric toller (and allegations that dye bleed-off caused everything from temporary epidermal staining to anaphylactic shock), Impetus chose to shift production to the Republic. No report has yet to surface of manufacturing problems experienced there; it is possible either the dye problems sorted themselves out, or Impetus ate the cost of the required molecular suspension.
Unconfirmed speculations suggest lacquering the new Iteron with ''Starlet Scarlet TM'' created nightmarish manufacturing delays. Stories coming out of Roden Shipyards manufacturing facilities in the Alenia and Miroitem systems paint an ugly picture of the process.
The color coats tended to gum up paint sprayer nozzles, resulting in frequent interruptions and considerable downtime, some of it due to paint fumes' overwhelming the filtration membranes inside workers' breathing masks. Uneven color curing also delayed each nanite sandoff step by an unpredictable amount of time, a wait that could not be reduced by conventional cure-time acceleration means.
Workers in Miroitem allegedly attempted a flash-vacuum cure that ended in disaster. They auto-undocked a newly painted Quafe Ultra Edition, hoping that the exposure to space would cure the color coat. Instead of the paint's hardening, it sheared off the ship in a single piece and collided with a conventional shuttle, crumpling its shield and creasing its hull before careening into open space.
Roden Shipyards representatives have so far denied all insinuations that the Quafe Ultra Edition's paint job may be part of a novel integrated weapons system.
In order to accommodate the Quafe Ultra Edition's upgraded cargohold within the same chassis as the standard Mark IV, the ship's crew compartment needed to be reduced in size.
The size reduction did not mean a compromise in safety or efficiency, however. On its Ultra Edition, Quafe offers a Quafe Personal Crew Compartment (QPCC, or "Quafe can"), a marriage of emergency pod, personal quarters, and work area that is clamped into the structural core of the ship's cargo compartment prior to loading cargo or installing a pilot capsule.
All crew functions aboard the Quafe Ultra Edition are conducted within the comfort of the QPCC, ensuring that no crew member will ever need to venture among the cargo or into the capsule containment area. Thanks to this isolation, crew on a Quafe Ultra Edition will run minimal risk of being abandoned during an emergency ship evacuation.
The Sisters of EVE's Dr. Veni Ariormosk, an attendee at the YC114 pre-convention technical briefing, reportedly applauded the QPCC's "humanitarian design", and asked if it would be offered for sale independently of the Quafe Ultra Edition.
Quafe representatives responded that they did not have plans to do so, but Roden and Duvolle may choose to market their own versions in future. Any future versions may not be free from the cross-empire technology distribution requirements of CONCORD's Directive Alpha Gamma 12.